I recently got together for a reunion with college buddies and one of them jokingly reminded me of how in college I had an actual physical list on paper of the woman that I wanted to marry. After 15 years, I had forgotten that detail, but it’s true. I carried a written list.

The List

In high school during a youth group session, the youth pastor had told us to write down on paper a list of features that we hoped to find in our future spouses and to keep it in your Bible. I made a list and kept it in my Bible. And I added to it over time.

It sounds silly or sentimental, but that list kept me out of a lot of trouble!

Since I was a young man, it had physical attributes of beauty on the list. But it had other elements too about spirituality, temperament, and traits that I desired in a wife.

Most guys obsess over the details of their new truck or car. They know all the options and all the features that they desire. They study them thoroughly and plan ahead on which model and type. Yet buying a truck is a simple financial transaction. It is not binding. It’s not personal. It’s a simple purchase. Yet matrimony is a personal covenant with another person “till death to us part.” No refunds. No upgrades to a new model. It’s not a purchase, it’s a vow to God and to her.

So it’s surprising that when it comes to women, men will rush into marriage for shallow reasons, such as: “She’s hot,” or “She’s an aerobics instructor,” or “I like her ______s.”

The List as Filter

When I met girls or dated girls, I had that list working as a filter? Does she go to church every Sunday? Would she be a good mother? How does she act around her friends? Who are her friends? Etc.

I once went a few dates with a gorgeous gal who was religious and checked off down the list. However a few dates in she shared how she expected her husband to follow her career and planned to defer having children by a decade. I was shocked. I wanted to move on. I was extremely attracted to her. She was lovely. But I know that this was “against the list.” I kindly moved on. That was our last date.

About six months later, I met the woman who would become my wife – and she was that ideal woman that I had hoped and prayed for. We have been married now 15 years next week!

Becoming the Mirror Image of the Woman on the List

The most important lesson from “the list” was something that the youth minister added. He said,

“Create your ideal spouse list and study it. But most important of all, become the mate who is worthy of the person on your list. If you’re a drunk. If you’re a womanizer. If you don’t have a job. If you look at porn. If you are not a man of your word. If you don’t take care of your mind and body. Then that ideal woman on your list is not going to give you the time of day. So become the mirror image of the man worthy of the woman you desire.”

To summarize, that prudent youth minister was telling us: “Have high standards for marriage and have high standards by which to measure yourself.” We are the sons of God and life is short. So our commitments should be well-planned and prayerfully executed. Do all things excellently.

So for any young men out there, make that list. You’ll be able to spill out the physical things you desire within the first 30 seconds. But it will likely take you minutes, hours, and months to fill out the rest. As a man married 15 years, it’s those latter items that are most important and best weighed out.

Taylor Marshall